Sustainable collapse

While reading the article ‘Sustainability of complex societies’ by Joseph A Tainter, I come across the part where he mentions the collapse of previous great human societies. Firstly he discusses the effects of a collapse, which include a decrease in population of 90%, societal simplification, and the development of technologies and organizations supportable by local resources. After this he states the impact of collapse is of such measure that every nation should seriously start working on creating a sustainable society. I can’t help but wonder who we are trying to sustain here? We have big problems regarding our habitat: planet earth. The technologies we have created are of such polluting nature that it is harming our surroundings. In fact, not only does it harm our surroundings, it also harms us. The toxic products we produce have very serious negative impact on our health. Furthermore the polluting fumes that come from both the production of oil and the use of fossil fuels are causing the air to be severely polluted. Besides that, for many countries the importation of oil is causing them to be dependent on other countries. As Tainter mentioned that in case of collapse the population will be reduced by some 90%, the demand for oil will become 90% less as well. Consequently, the necessity to develop technologies that are supportable by local resources will most likely reduce this demand, or the possibility of demanding, by 100%. With this in mind, who is this collapse harming? We have the knowledge of the past in mind, and we can ‘predict’ the future is such a way that we see our societal end nearing. If our aim with sustainability in general is to preserve the planet, just continue what you’re doing, and salvation will come soon. If what we are trying to sustain is ourselves then. Well, then what. We are currently reaching ages of over 100 years old, but those are exceptional. Taking that into account, ‘we’ will not be here anymore in about 120 years. What’s the problem? After all the societal collapses that have happened, more evolved ones have come up. Most of the time the previous knowledge was unknown or not used to benefit the development, and we can only hope that in case of a collapse the next great societal intelligence will not use ours. So far we have made quite a mess, which some of us are trying to clean up, while others happily continue to wreck it up. I think that only by creating the effects of a collapse to a certain degree, we can sustain both the planet and the society.


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